The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®

 

Floyd Skloot

Over and Over

 

My brain is a jukebox stuffed with old songs
playing a phrase or two at random over
and over. I keep the volume turned low
but you can sometimes see my lips move
as I sing along, eyebrows rising as I reach
for a silent high note. If you asked me
whether I know the lyrics to "Over and Over"
I would say No and blame it on being
almost seventy, then find the song
repeating in my head an hour later as I fold
the laundry. Bobby Day,1958, B-side
of "Rockin' Robin," I'm eleven and listening
to my brother's 45s before he gets home
from school. I went to a dance the other night.
Everybody went stag. Also late 1965,
the Dave Clark Five. I said over and over
and over again this dance is gonna be
a drag
. I'll hear both versions off and on
for hours till someone says wasn't it awful
about the tanker fire yesterday morning?

and then I'll hear the soft piano and drums
opening into "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes."
They asked me how I knew. I don't know
how I still know these lyrics. Haven't thought
of them in fifty years at least. The Platters,
Nat King Cole, Eartha Kitt. Just a boy.
But now the lines repeat and expand, melody
and rhyme tricky, When your heart's on fire,
you must realize
, all the way to dinnertime
when I start preparing trout with lime, cilantro
and coconut. That unleashes Harry Nilsson
singing put the lime in the coconut, the only
phrase I know from his song. I'm not even sure
I've heard "Coconut" from beginning to end
but those six words repeat over and over
till now, just thinking over and over again,
there it is: I went to a dance the other night.

 

Floyd Skloot

Visit

 

In early spring I dream her last
months again. I enter the secret
code, then follow the long gleaming
hallway as the doors close and lock
behind us. There is the man holding
a stuffed brown bear and babbling
in his wheelchair. The nurses' aide
pats a blank-faced woman shrieking
as she nears her room. In the sunlit
distance, the solarium where my mother
sits beside a bowl of boiled eggs.
Her softened voice is no longer
the voice of rage. Her livid eyes
are nearly sightless now, the teeth
that bit her own fist in fury are gone.
 
Her questions are always the same:
Am I married? Are you married?
Are we married?
Soon she sings
a phrase or two, drifts into pure
melody, fades toward silence
and slowing breath, closes her eyes,
sleeps. When I begin to sing her song
she nods and smiles but does not wake.
I wonder if her ravaged brain
allows her still to dream and would
those dreams be of gleaming
hallways, locked doors, wild screams?
Would she be free of all the forces
that haunted her before, that haunted
us all who lived in her terrible thrall?


Floyd Skloot

Coconut Patties

My grandparents were a box of coconut
patties brought back from Miami in February
just for me. They were a tiny kitchen reeking
of flanken and roasted root vegetables,
a samovar of tea, rugelach from the bakery
around the corner. His laugh was the roar
of an airplane propeller and hers was silent
but made her bounce. Always a short sashay
to Central Park and back at dusk followed by
a game of gin rummy on the living room sofa
while traffic rattled the apartment's windows.
When they spoke of the old country--Krakow!
Tuchow!
--they spit three times over their shoulders
to ward off the evil eye and kissed their fingertips.

 

 

 

FLOYD SKLOOT's eighth collection of poems, Approaching Winter, was published by LSU Press in 2015. LSU also published The End of Dreams (2006), a finalist for the Paterson Prize in Poetry, and The Snow's Music (2008). His next book, a novel entitled The Phantom of Thomas Hardy, will be published by the University of Wisconsin Press in the fall of 2016.

 

 

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